Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ring Around the Rosy

Michael W. Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 78.

As-Safadi wrote that the plague-stricken Damascenes during the Black Death "looked like roses," which may reasonably refer to those conspicuous skin blemishes. This symptom recalls, in a morbid manner, our common children's song, "Ring Around the Rosy," which originally applied to these inflamed pustules during European plague epidemics.

(As-Safadi died of plague in 1363. It is unlikely the nursery rhyme refers to the disease. --bc)